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Ken Hensley - Proud Words On A Dusty Shelf CD (album) cover

PROUD WORDS ON A DUSTY SHELF

Ken Hensley

 

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3.52 | 39 ratings

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Psychedelic Paul
5 stars KEN HENSLEY (born 1945) is the thundering keyboard powerhouse that drives the High and Mighty sound of URIAH HEEP. He's been involved with a number of "very 'eavy, very 'umble" bands during his early years, including two albums with The Gods: "Genesis" (1968) and "To Samuel a Son" (1969), one album with Head Machine: "Orgasm" (1969), a self-titled album with "Toe Fat" (1970), and another self-titled album with "Weed" (1971). Ken Hensley appeared on thirteen Uriah Heep albums in a row, from their first album, "Very 'eavy, Very 'umble" in 1970, right through to their "Conquest" album in 1980, when he left the band he'd founded shortly afterwards due to the age-old band problem of "artistic differences". In the mid-1980's, Ken Hensley appeared on two albums with the American Southern Rock band Blackfoot: "Siogo" (1983) and "Vertical Smiles" (1984). He's also recorded two Live albums each in 2001 and 2002 with his two former Uriah Heep bandmates, John Lawton and John Wetton. More recently, he's recorded two studio albums under the name Ken Hensley & Live Fire: "Faster" (2011) and "Trouble" (2013). Ken Hensley launched his solo career in 1973 with "Proud Words on a Dusty Shelf", when he was still very much the driving force behind Uriah Heep. Two of Ken's Uriah Heep bandmates featured on the album: Gary Thain on bass and Lee Kerslake on drums. He's since recorded eight more studio albums with his most recent solo album "Love & Other Mysteries" arriving in the record stores in 2012. It's time now to take Ken Hensley's loud and proud first solo album off the shelf and blow off the dust and wipe away the cobwebs and give it a listen.

The album opens in magnificent style with a tremendous power ballad: "When Evening Comes". Ken Hensley is in fine voice here and he's a very accomplished guitarist too, as he demonstrates here with some phenomenal soaring power chords and glittering glissandos. This dramatic refrain is just as strong and powerful as anything Uriah Heep have ever done, representing a dazzling entrance onto the solo stage for Ken Hensley which he can feel justly proud. Stunning debut albums like this one only come along "From Time To Time" and that's the title of our next song. It begins as a gentle strumming acoustic guitar number and blossoms out into a high and mighty passion play of stupendous sonic splendour, in true Uriah Heep style. Think of the magnificent majesty of "July Morning", and that's the kind of epic song you have here, only without David Byron's extravagant high-pitched vocals. When the dynamic keyboards appear at the midway point, that's when the song really reaches up into the stratosphere. It's back down to earth for "A King Without a Throne", a fairly routine and plodding Blues- Rock number without any great Demons and Wizards keyboard histrionics. It's time to put the umbrella up now for "Rain", which features Ken in full romantic balladeer mode. It's a gorgeous piano ballad featuring these moving heartfelt lyrics:- "It's raining outside but that's not unusual, But the way that I'm feeling is becoming usual, I guess you could say, The clouds are moving away, Away from your days, And into mine." ..... The moment when the gorgeous choir joins in is truly inspirational. This mellifluous romantic melody is guaranteed to brighten up the dullest of rainy days. We've reached the halfway point now with "Proud Words", a rousing and rollicking rock & roll song with a boisterous attitude. Ken Hensley's clearly not in the mood to stand for any nonsense here as he loudly and proudly urges us all to:- "Stand up and fight, Or you'll lose your right, Do you want to stand in a line, Fightin' hard to hold on to your mind." ..... It's a rockin' good song to close Side One, which sounds like a rousing call to arms.

We've struck lucky and hit musical gold with "Fortune", a resonant reverberant refrain with High and Mighty Ken Hensley at his exhilarating and exuberant best. It's a true Return To Fantasy in a glorious Wonderworld of classic Uriah Heep pomp and passion. It's a song with all of the storming power of a tank rolling across Salisbury Plain. This is where we get to hear the booming and bombastic sound of Ken Hensley having the Sweet Freedom to do what he does best of all - delivering dynamic and dramatic Hard Rock with all of the explosive power of a stick of TNT. It's very 'eavy, but not so very 'umble. There's a nice change of pace for "Black Hearted Lady", an uplifting romantic ballad with Ken Hensley wearing his heart on his sleeve with these bittersweet lyrics:- "Reading between the lines I find, You don't mean what you say, You cheated and you lied, And how you made me hurt inside, You turned my days into darkest nights, And re-arranged my dreams, You're just not what you seem, Black-hearted lady." ..... It sounds like Ken was writing from bitter personal experience with those emotionally-wrought lyrics. It's time to "Go Down" now for a lovely acoustic guitar ballad. It's a charming heart-warming song carried along on a harmonious wave of rich golden guitar chords and with Ken Hensley in fine impassioned voice. In an album that's choc-a-bloc full of great songs, the penultimate song "Cold Autumn Sunday" represents the highlight of the album. It's a passionate power ballad that pulls out all the stops, featuring a glittering display of stratospheric guitar riffing and a rousing honey-voiced choir that's guaranteed to lift the spirits up into the heavens. This is THE BIG anthemic number on the album with all of the grandiose splendour and magnificent majesty of a great royal occasion. And finally, here comes the real shocker..... Ken Hensley goes Country! Yes, really! "The Last Time" is the last song on the album and it's a twangy Country song, adding a countrified string to Mr Hensley's versatile musical bow - although it's hard to picture Ken Hensley wearing a Stetson hat and cowboy boots.

"Proud Words on a Dusty Shelf" is a magnificent debut for Ken Hensley and it's an album that any discerning connoisseur of classic Prog-Rock can feel proud to have on their dusty shelf. You don't HAVE to be a Uriah Heep fan to love this stunning album, but it might help. It's not as hard and heavy as Uriah Heep, but it's an album bursting at the seams with pride and power and romantic passion.

Psychedelic Paul | 5/5 |

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